Almost a month ago I received an email inviting me to join a Google+ group. I was happy to do so, thinking it was a personal invitation rather than one generated by an essentially anonymous algorithm.
Arriving to the group (I went to check it out right away), the post that greeted me also seemed personally relevant to me; in fact my first impulse was that the founder of this group had invited me because that particular post had just been published. I felt an immediate tug to comment but hesitated…
Very soon (what felt like practically right away), I saw a Facebook post in a related “Conversation” group that complemented the Google+ group’s posting—indeed it felt directly relevant, articulating some of my private contemplations about a particular sub-set of dynamics that arose around a Sceenius’ Knowledge Expedition.
Fortunately, I didn’t have time to compose a comment at that exact instant, but the vitality of my visceral engagement meant I kept thinking about the communication I thought had occurred. That is to say, I felt as if a particular message (or messages) was sent deliberately to me, calling upon me to offer up a response. I say fortunately I didn’t give an instant response, because as I have been able to carve out time to explore more, I discovered that the Google+ post was not that fresh; it had been re-posted by someone other than the original author.
Ron’s original post pre-dated John’s invitation by three days. One could argue (I suppose) that this timing lends some credibility to an hypothesis that John invited me because of Ron’s post. Whether or not this was the case is of minor significance, however, in light of the reality of me experiencing it “as if” the meaning of “invite+convergence glyph” was directed personally to me.
It is more likely that the invitation I’d received from John was random: at least its timing with the (second) appearance of Ron’s Glyph diving in social fields post was coincidental. At most whatever motivated the invite to be sent at that particular moment was not accessible to me in the instant of reception—there was no “evidence” nor any “clues” presented to connect the invitation with anything that had happened before—only my suppositions; call them intuition, or wishful thinking, or fullblown fantasy. The experience offers an illustration of what one might call a communication fact: receivers are the ones most ‘in charge’ of deciding what something ‘means.’
My realization of the serendipity of the timing of John’s invitation and Ron’s posting called into question the construction of meaning in my mind, also casting doubt on the associations I’d made about the content of Joe’s Facebook post, How to Create a Group Mind, being a reflection or commentary relevant to the Sceenius dynamics in question. In fairness to my logic, I had not thought that there was any association between Joe’s post and Ron’s. Nor did I draw any overt connection between Joe’s post and John’s invitation. Rather I sensed a more covert kind of parallel process or synergy whereby different members of a group are always representing various aspects of the group’s whole/holistic experience.
Now, I am writing weeks after the immediacy of those deeply-felt ‘turns’ (John—Ron—Joe) and can imagine the labor of memory required for John, Ron and Joe to recall those original moments from their points-of-view. Certainly each of the their individual communication acts (Invitation—Google+Post—Facebook Post) are not seamlessly connected in their minds as part of a discrete flow of sequential experience. It is unlikely that these separate communication acts were collectively conceived as a conscious representation. One could go so far as to say that it’s ridiculous for me to have made such strong associations among them, particularly in terms of sensing myself as an intended audience. Indeed, only John might have considered his invitation to me a direct engagement warranting a designation of me as an interlocutor, but that single act of communication could hardly have been more than a blip in his day. Ron most likely did not have me in mind as a potential audience member/reader of his post. Joe would not (as far as I know) have had any reason to even be aware of me when he decided to re-share his blogentry (originally written two years ago) on Facebook!
This diversity of communication experience is an illustration of what Mikael Bakhtin meant by heteroglossia: everyone speaks ‘their own language’ and, by corollary, comprehends language by making use of linguistic resources and packaging/interpreting perceptions in ways particular to their own particular ‘center’ according to the sequence of events and experiences. Everyone has different reference points, experiences a unique stream of communicative events, and is informed from the on-going transactions of their specific embodiment and particular social position(s)/positionality. These aggregate and cohere in society to create social reality: prejudices, discriminations, and oppressions as well as strengths, beauties and aspirations. This dialectical process is prominently enabled by language: language use, language-in-use, language as transactional for the transmission of knowledges and equally (though often neglected) the perpetuation of identities and relationships through time (see John Carey).
At an emotional level, I would have preferred to continue to flow onward along the trajectory of the imaginary meaningfulness I constructed from those three discrete communication acts! When such acts collapse in mutually shared experience, it seems people do generally prefer to carry on at full speed along that stream. Perhaps there was a way I could have “joined” in a more immediate manner, but I was at a loss to reconcile the complexity of our interaction into a simple reduction that was suitable to the moment without compromising or, worse, appearing to erase an unresolved previous encounter.
Can we hold each other accountable for real? And, in doing so, can we uphold each other’s dignity and respect each other’s learning curves and processes of assimilating new/different feedback?
In other words, how, I keep wondering, can we ever generate collective coherence beyond the easy magnetism of instantaneous grokking when divergence is much more common than convergence, or when convergence self-perpetuates itself only among those who are already like-minded?
What is needed is to enable connection that allows for, nay embraces, tensions of real difference as an essential part of collectivizing.
Michael Holquist, a contemporary Bahktinian scholar and translator, labeled the operational function of language in generating chronotopes as timespace calibration. Bakhtin had realized that the language of a people reveals that people’s orientation to time and thus to space, that culture or society’s overall relation to timespace—the time of spaces. Bakhtin gleaned this from close comparative study of early literature (the Greeks and Romans) and contrasted their similarities and differences with the popular Russian literature of his own time, the first half of the 20th century. Bakhtin suggested that not only does language provide a lens for discernment of past and present cultural and ideological orientations to time (and thereby to space); language is itself a tool for constructing the social realities of timespaces. That is, language dynamics make a significant contribution to the generation of material conditions.
These days, I’m a peripheral, minor participant in several chronotopally-bound conversations. I think of them as contrapuntal. The general trend in most of these conversations is a centrifugal discourse, one that continually re-centers itself as “the” most-important-thing-that-is-happening-now. #BlackLivesMatter is a counterpoint to #Conversation and also to a month-long online encounter last January exploring Dialogue, Deliberation and Social Transformation. #Conversation strikes me as a tech version of the #permaculture movement. Last week Greenpeace dangled human beings in front of a massive oil rig to try and prevent drilling in the Arctic. Egypt nears absolute water crisis. War and unspeakable violence continues to ravage vast populations of human beings on the planet. The patterns of self-reinforcing language use of folks invested in each of these discourses offer slim strands of interconnections, but there is no reason these cannot be made more robust! I suppose that giving careful attention to interpersonal/small group-scale moments of disconnect and divergence (according to diverse beats and varying rhythms) we can identify and forge such mergers.
With time, practice, and increasing skill, this more resilient ‘net’ will spread.
Alliances must be broader, deeper, and more wholistic. We must learn and enact skills of bridging differences in those moments when surface synergy becomes unharmonic, when the rhythm shifts to an unfamiliar score or the beat changes from a familiar cadence to one which feels discomfitting or even threatening. If we are to build hope of overcoming the entrenched systemic inertia of industrial civilization with its myriad comforts and diversions, we must learn to embrace and adopt the explorer’s ethos and curiosity about what’s going on right here right now so that we can discover how to get along into the future in profoundly new ways.
Learning, the Permaculture Way was a pre-conference workshop by David Eggleton and me at the 2nd Permaculture Voices conference (PV2) in San Diego. Our session drew about 50 participants, some of whom continued a dialogue that seemed—on the surface—to have a narrow focus but, over the five days of PV2, grew wider, broader and was deepened considerably through Meet-Ups and collaboration with the Mycelium team of facilitators.
For sustainability to function and endure, the overarching relationship that must function well is between people(s) and place(s). A resilient ability to balance the twin goals of being a Whole Person and living in a Whole Place is the aim and outcome of working well with the differences between peoples and places.
Many permies emphasize living in a Whole Place, so the Meaningful Makeover instrument brings an equal emphasis to being a Whole Person by elaborating the “Care of People” permaculture principle with insights from Stephen Covey (author of The 8th Habit and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
Creatively identifying the interconnections and interdependencies between the two “paradigms” of Whole Person and Whole Place yields four working relationships that serve as touchstones for life-long learning and permaculture coaching. With the additional half-hour Diego gave us this year, we asked participants to gather in small groups organized by Working Relationship and come up with a guiding question relevant to their journey through PV2.
Two Paradigms/Four Questions
The Whole Place paradigm invokes two Working Relationships: interspecies and interelemental.
The Whole Person paradigm invokes two Working Relationships: intrapersonal and interhuman.
The overarching questions created by small groups this year were:
Interspecies: How do we reconcile/balance our desire to integrate wildlife and net biodiversity (whole ecosystem health) with the human need for a system that ‘produces a yield’?
Interelemental: How do my design elements fit together as a system?
Intrapersonal: How can we become our best whole selves to care for ourselves, our communities, & the earth while at the same time welcoming the reciprocity of those things caring for us, our communities, & our earth?
Interhuman: How do I connect with the right people, how do I properly communicate, and how do I create/find community?
Working Well with Differences, Interhumanly
Soirée noted some problems with the phrasing of the interhuman question:
I would like to point out that the three-part inter-human question resulted when we were not able to distill the community question further in the time allotted. It’s my impression that “right people” was not intended to imply some people were wrong but rather how do I find people for real connection rather than a passing fancy. [Also] I’m not entirely clear what “how do I properly communicate” meant to the contributor…
Rick pursued a different but related question: “How can I improve community stability?”
During the Meet-Ups and in the Closing Break-Out Session, we talked a fair bit about trying to increase the diversity of future Permaculture Voices conference participants and presenters. One strategy included becoming more aware of whiteness and how it can unconsciously get in the way of inclusion and diversification. More thoughts about how we/human beings can work well with the differences among us/human beings are shared at this Permavoices page. You are also invited to contribute.
The race of Ultra vs Enigma in The Imitation Game prefigures Edward Snowden, #Anonymous, and the Lizard Squad.
The Imitation Game is impressive in two distinct ways. One is the deployment of cinematic license to dramatically convey what Turing expert Professor S. Barry Olson describes as “the objective truth” about the invention of the counter-machine that cracked Enigma, the Nazis supposedly unbreakable coding machine.
However, Christian Caryl’s criticism isn’t completely wrong: stereotypes about gay men do inform Benedict Cumberbatch’s representation of Turing, and could support homophobic attitudes about what is/isn’t a security risk. That said, Cumberbatch does strike a nice balance between the story of the man and the story of the technology within the constraints established by the script.
In the end, as far as the significance of this film goes, as much as Turing deserves to be celebrated every bit as much as, say, Stephen Hawking, in historical terms it is the computing technology that eclipses the identity of a gay man. This leads to the second, most impressive aspect of the film, which is of a certain metonymy: The Imitation Game is representative of the material birth of postmodernity, in which time and space have been collapsed by the digitalization of communication.
The Ultra project at Bletchley Park brings to mind the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. Although the film rightfully celebrates Turing’s life and achievement of “the unimaginable,” like most forms of innovative knowledge his invention has a dark side, too. Unlike the development of the atomic bomb with its obviously ethical aspects, the creation of the computer appears neutral. The ubiquity of computing today feeds ambivalence about the ethics of computing which might render its unintended consequences all the more dangerous because of their subtlety.
The dark side of computing is not videogaming or social media or the proliferation of cute cats on youtube or data mining or even threats to privacy or cyberterrorism (because both of these can still be contained, if enough of us act soon and in concert). Nor is it the deep canalization of subgroups being reinforced by targeted advertising, although this may outrank all the others by perpetuating attitudes of ethnocentrism and prejudice. The difficult challenge of computing is the social construction of time as a race that only the fastest can win.
The race of Ultra vs Enigma prefigures Edward Snowden, #Anonymous, and the Lizard Squad, the latter claiming to be “working to get access to some of the core routing equipment of the Internet.” This cyber/cipher “game” is as serious now to human life and death as it was during WWII, if not more so, with the entire planet at stake. The Imitation Game should win the Oscar for its historical relevance on top of all the excellent acting and flawless production. Imitation champions anti-sexism and anti-homophobia while skirting wide of racism, “the uncontrolled imaginings of the white mind,” which make it a politically safe contender at this volatile moment of “I can’t breathe” and #BlackLivesMatter.
The imitating that Turing and contemporaries created is far more than a game. As a technology, computing has sped up the rate and pace of human social interaction. Turing’s invention was perfectly in keeping with that era of industrialization: radio, telephones and television were spreading information faster and further than ever before, and assembly lines were improving efficiencies and cranking out products at ever-increasing rates. People were (and are, even moreso now) being trained to the clock, not to any natural rhythms of the actual earth or a biological species.
Conceptualizing time and humanity’s relationship to time is tricky territory, not least because science hasn’t yet figured out where time comes from or what it is. “We’re not in a war with Germany, we’re in a war with time,” is the most important line in the film. The meaning of the scripted line is transparent in relation to the calendar and the clock, to the exigencies of battle: factually and descriptively, it is true enough. Metonymically, however, the meaning is deeply representative, even reifying, of the effect of civilization on the modern and postmodern construction of time.
It wasn’t long after the war when Claude Shannon (also a code-breaker) wrote the foundational paper on digitalization. Turing and Shannon were working on different but complementary problems at the same time. Shannon’s application of Boolean algebra is where all those 0s and 1s come from, the key being that all digitized information is forced into one or the other value. This is (so they say) a great boon for copying but there is also loss of variation, at least some of which has artistic value and intrinsic human merit.
Digitalization forces communication to flow along extremely rigid channels. All analog communication, that is, all human communication, has to be broken down into a binary code: either a zero or a one. There is no variation. (Hence, for instance, the return to vinyl for musicians attuned to the richer quality of analog sound.) The unintended consequence now known as the postmodern condition is an effect of digital forcing. Increases in the speed and ability of communication to reach across distances have outpaced humanity’s ability for sane and sustainable cultural adaptation. It’s as if human society has been sucked into a wind tunnel; people find themselves either in the main flow or in the turbulence. Few seem able to find their balance within the onrush, let alone establish positions adequate to attempt healthy and restorative counteractions.
For proper historical context and relevance, The Imitation Game needs to be understood in parallel with Citizen 4. Whether you approve of Snowden’s action or not, you should see Laura Poitras’ film capturing his conversations with journalist Glen Greenwald as news reports unfolded on our television screens and online news sources. Citizen 4 should win Best Documentary because of the time manipulation it achieves in service of art and social justice. Humans now have the means to recognize and record significant historical moments as they happen. Awards aside, to understand what The Imitation Game can teach us about living through this perilous era in human history, it is necessary to be informed about the stakes of cyber-surveillance and cyber-security’s cipher games. The new imitation game (made visible by the Sony hack with its political fallout and economic consequences) not only threatens privacy, real democracy, and genuine social justice, but is also a crucial playing field where humanity’s efforts to evolve enough to avert climate disaster will be determined.
The Imitation Game is more than a good movie; it allows a rare window for comprehensive reflection on the highest stakes of life and living, here and now.
#KRKTR is an open game for everyone interested in developing individual character and social resilience.
Points are earned for promoting and continuing communication, especially across different topics and among different groups. The idea is that both character and resilience are built at the intersections.
Plus 250 points if your Tweet is the Second Response
Plus 100 points if your Tweet is the Third Response or later; all additional responses earn +100 points
The Last Response in each thread earns all the points accumulated in that thread: 500 + 250 + 100 x (nbr of additional Tweets) NOTE: The Last Response is determined by the end of official game play as announced by @KRKTR_HUB.
A thread is created whenever Replies and/or ReTweets are made to any original Tweet that includes the #KRKTR hashtag.
Previous Tweets from the #KRKTR archive can be ReTweeted or Replied to in order to earn points during official game play.
Threads can originate from any #KRKTR player.
Threads originated by @KRKTR_HUB may become privileged. (Haven’t figured this part out yet.)
Serious #KRKTR players are encouraged not to respond to “bad will” Tweets. Let them die alone and quickly.
Advanced play involves careful and strategic use of hashtags to make connections whenever an intersection appears.
Cultivation of a connection across two different discourses (as organized by the hashtag) requires repetition and persistence.
Rather than hashtagging every word, be focused and deliberate about the connection you’re trying to forge.
Prizes will be announced as sponsors come forth with them. (Negotiations are underway. Contact Steph with offers for this and future rounds of play.)
The second workshop is called Transmedia Character Building for Social Resilience. It promotes the idea that building character (#KRKTR) is an idea that can unify people across all kinds of divisions, and contribute to establishing locally-oriented community connections both within and beyond traditional power structures.
Dominic reminded me that the way we talk needs revision. There is no “solution” to climate change; nothing to stop the forces already in motion. “We have to go through it.” What there are, instead, are ways of living during the escalation of natural disasters. Perhaps, against the odds, if enough of us change fast enough, the living earth will be able to rejuvenate itself and life on earth will persist into the far future.
Karl asked the most relevant question: What is the best path forward? Participants at the first Permaculture Voices conference in Temecula, CA spent four days searching out and following their own answers. A star-studded cast of some the living earth’s most well-known champions provided a scientific and ethical framework for the monumental economic, cultural and lifestyle changes required (of North Americans, in particular).
Eating locally grown food is the most obvious feature of permaculture; its discourse has begun to effect public opinion and (some) public policy. However, being a local hero in-and-of-itself is insufficient to guarantee a future for your children and grandchildren. Earth will lose its breathable atmosphere within decades if we persist in delaying fundamental changes in energy consumption and dismantling corporate agriculture.
#permavoices "Agriculture isn't the domestication of plants or animals. It's the domestication of the human species" @tobyhemenway
If one wanted to notice, there were visible absences in the conference demographics. People of color, women presenters, and international representation, for instance, were seriously under-represented. Some of these imbalances were aired publicly and grumbled about privately, but perseverating on them would be a mistaken use of energy along the lines of the “feedback loops” Allan Savory refuses to entertain in the mission to let cattle (and other livestock) save the planet. Women (especially white women) need to step up and start doing epic shit (echoing Paul Wheaton and paraphrasing Larry Santoyo).
The more significant yet rarely spoken tension is class and the luxurious privileges of whiteness. Not just white skin privilege (which varies according to social class), but the attitudes of whiteness that celebrate individualism and the myth of independence. It’s damn scary to realize that I don’t know enough people with the skills to help me survive; humbling to realize how little I have to offer in regard to growing food or tending animals; and terrifying to consider that not only is my incompetence not unique but rather it’s the norm.
Toby Hemenway illustrated why there are no energy solutions that allow Americans (especially) to continue to consume so much power. We have to stop. Now. It’s really that simple. We have to suck it up and suffer for the sake of future generations. No presenters talked about how to make these transitions on a meaningful scale but I did hear of places (cities and regions) where significant progress is underway. Why not in more places?
Allan Savory says we'll need millions more animals out of feedlots and on the land to reverse desertification #permavoices
There are a lot of excuses to postpone lifestyle change. These (mostly selfish) rationalizations combine with general tendencies of insularity (sticking with one’s own kind) and the drive to take care of immediate family first. The latter is reasonable, but permaculture as a movement can’t stop there. We need more Willie Smits’s and Geoff Lawtons and Allan Savory’s doing good works on massive scales (none of them are American, hmmm) demonstrating and modeling that complexity can be holistically managed and climate change perhaps mitigated by an unprecedented, massively-collaborative surge of homo sapiens seeking to survive.
I see evidence of this in Panama w/ hydro. RT @stephjoke: "There will be worse wars over water than over oil." —Allan Savory #permavoices
We need better soil for growing food and other critical biomass, and we have to stop the spread of deserts. There are ‘technologies’ – methods, behaviors, attitudes and manual human effort – that can make HUGE DIFFERENCES in a QUICK TIMEFRAME if we JUST START! Biochar is relatively easy and contributes on several fronts. Permaculture principles need to be imposed on all agricultural facilities, asap. Policies encouraging postmodern cattle drives are desperately needed to help reverse desertification around the world.
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Michael Pollan #permavoices
The thing is that we in the west (and those in the east aspiring to the west’s lifestyle with disregard for its awful consequences) can no longer have it all. We never could, but the bubble of privilege maintained the aura of illusion for a few generations. I admit I’m worried about how well I’ll hold up when my comforts begin to diminish.
At the same time, I’m honored and humbled to be called to participate in the greatest undertaking humanity has ever faced. Geoff, Paul, Allan, Toby, Diego Footer, Nicholas Wooten, Jessica Schilke, Souki Mehdaoui, Ryan Harb, Elaine Ingham, Doniga Markegaard, Nadia Lawton, yes yes even Joel Salatin and Mark Shepard (but I have to ask if you’re playing too close to the monster?), the other presenters and participants, and all the permies in the community house, with each your own specializations, commitments and passions: THANK YOU for your bright hearts, light spirits, and deep compassion for the living earth.
"When land is managed holistically, the natural carbon-cycle comes back." ~Doniga Markegard #permavoices
Neal Stephenson has said that he is interested in “the attention span of our society” and comments that we have “350 years of perspective” on the scientific process. In the face of climate disruption, can Cultural Creatives prove the Doomers and Deniers wrong? This week, a symposium at UMass Amherst aims to “Harvest Hope.”
Neal Stephenson said that we’ve now got “350 years of perspective” on the scientific process, and that he is interested in “the attention span of our society” (p. 269, Some Remarks).
Long dialogues are challenging for many reasons. They require perseverance, for one thing, and humility too – because if you stick around long enough you’re bound to encounter perspectives and learn things that cause you to realize some of your own failings and limitations. Thus, long dialogues require courage of a very particular kind. Inspired by some teenagers a few years ago, I began calling this kind of courage “character.” (Specifically #KRKTR, but I will not elaborate upon that digression here.)
Deniers are caught up in the zeitgeist, playing the political and social drama. The Doomers have already given up. Guy McPherson leads the charge, passionately arguing that hope is dead and only love remains. Avowed Doomers have a head start on the rest of us, because they believed the science from the beginning and have been preparing for the collapse of industrial society. Those Who’ve Given Up more quietly immerse themselves in the immediate concerns of self-gratification and accommodating friends, family and coworkers. Cultural creatives are exercising a different kind of imagination, proposing a mythological kind of speculative living that holds out the promise of transformation.
“When we realize we are the planet,
we’ll be more inclined to do what’s necessary to save it.”
~ Christian Williams
reviewing Journey of the Universe for Utne Reader.
12% of the Solution: Biochar
Twelve percent is not enough, of course, to reverse the damage to the atmosphere. Taken in conjunction with other large-scale initiatives (whether these are led by government or quarterbacked by leaders in localized communities), restoring the soil of the planet—the earth of the earth—is essential. Using principles of holistic design based in geographical features and natural processes, there is no reason why human ingenuity cannot be turned to the creation and implementation of a greenprint for the planet. The only obstacle is us getting in our own way.
I am excited to talk with you today about the real value of interpreting, which is communicating pluralingual relationships into the future. Now, that’s quite a word, pluralingualism, but all it means is two or more languages used at the same time by people interacting with each other.
I’ve been thinking about interpreting in terms of history since the late 1980s, which is when I met Deaf people and began learning American Sign Language. At that time, the American Deaf Community was in the midst of an empowering movement for social change. The Bilingual-Bicultural movement included criticism of signed language interpreters. The criticism focused on what Deaf people called “the machine model” of interpreting. When the profession was established in 1964, it had quickly become dominated by interpreters with weak or no ties to Deaf culture.